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Autos chief agents of pollution: study

Apart from this, the study is all praise for CNG vehicles, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 03:20 IST

Despite running on “green fuel” CNG, the thousands of autorickshaws plying the capital’s roads everyday are the chief source of harmful dust particles found in its air, a latest study has found.

While CNG-operated vehicles have helped clean the city’s air in the last six years, converting autorickshaws from petrol-fuelled to CNG-fuelled has not helped much, and diesel vehicles are set to upset the gains from CNG, short for Compressed Natural Gas.

These are some of the findings of ‘Impact of Delhi’s CNG Program on Air Quality’, a study by Resources For the Future (RFF), a Washington-based think tank.

The study, a first of its kind since CNG-fuelled vehicles hit the roads, looked into vehicle registration data, meteorological conditions and earlier environmental policies by the government to check pollution, to arrive at its conclusions. “This is the biggest and the most comprehensive study done so far to analyse the effects of clean fuel in Delhi,” Urvashi Narain, fellow at RFF, said while releasing the study on Thursday.

Analysing air pollution data compiled by the Central Pollution Control Board from 1990 to 2005, the study says that the performance of the huge fleet of autos still remain a cause for concern as far as ‘respirable suspended particulate matter’ (RSPM) is concerned. These particulate matters (dust particles of various origins) enter the lungs when you breathe.

“It is possible that the technology used in converting petrol-driven autos to CNG-fuelled ones was not up to the mark or may be the maintenance of the vehicles need to be looked into,” Urvashi Narain, who is a coauthor of the study, said.

In response to this, however, the drivers of autos offer their own explanation. “The technology used for conversion was mandated by the government so we did not have a say in it. As far as pollution in concerned, it is the diesel vehicles, and not autos that pollute the air the most,” said Jaswant Arora, president of the nodal body of auto rickshaw associations in Delhi.

Apart from this, the study is all praise for CNG vehicles. “Results suggest that conversion of buses into CNG has helped reduce RSPM, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, and has not contributed to the increase in nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels,” it says.

Email Avishek Dastidar: avishek.dastidar@hindustantimes.com